Tom Wopat in: Iron Man

as: Tony Stark/Iron Man

Iron Man was the first film in what is now known as the “Marvel Cinematic Universe.” (Previous Marvel films—like Spider-Man and the Dolph Lundgren version of The Punisher—aren’t included in said universe because they weren’t produced/released by Marvel Studios.) It set the bar pretty high, and, for my money, has yet to be surpassed by any of the increasingly-interconnected comic book movies that have been made since.

Iron Man also heralded Robert Downey, Jr.’s big comeback. (Comeback #4 or so, by my count, but this one stuck.) RDJ is undoubtedly great in the role, and I for one am glad that he’s back in the Hollywood game; he seems like a pretty good dude, and just so happens to be one heck of an actor. Because he is so darned great, it seems inevitable that he would’ve made a solid comeback at some point, with or without Iron Man. There’s another actor who’s more than due for a comeback, and for whom the role of Iron Man would’ve been perfect. You’ll never guess who I’m thinking of…

iron mang

Why Not Wopat?

RDJ’s take on Tony Stark/Iron Man is an equal mix of charm, attitude, and smarts. Another character that matches that description? Tom Wopat’s Luke Duke. Imagine if, instead of souping up a ’69 Dodge Charger, Luke put his mechanical know-how to work building a high-powered, weaponized suit of armor—pretty much a perfect fit, no? Give essentially the same rambunctious rapscallion a few billion dollars, knowledge of advanced military technology, and some state-of-the-art precision machining equipment, and you’ve got Tony Stark.

Tom Wopat’s definitely got the chops to carry the role. What about the look? In the comics, Tony Stark has always looked more or less like RDJ did in his portrayal: dark hair, goatee, etc. Wopat’s got hair for days, but he might look a little funny with the hipster-magician facial hair Downey sports in Iron Man. Surely the hair and makeup department could’ve found a style that would fit Wopat’s handsome mug.

One big difference between RDJ and Tom Wopat is their age: when Iron Man was released, Downey was 43; Wopat was 56. RDJ is already a little on the “old” side to be portraying a superhero, even one that doesn’t actually rely on physical superpowers (as all of Iron Man’s abilities come from his super suit). However, I think Wopat’s additional years would’ve actually made more sense for the character. Follow me here:

In the comics, Tony Stark is the CEO of Stark Industries, one of the biggest weapons manufacturers in the world and a multi-billion dollar corporation. Though he essentially inherited the position from his father, Howard Stark, the founder of the company, how many major, multi-billion dollar CEOs are in their 40s when they reach that echelon? I’d guess not many. Iron Man’s director, Jon Favreau, has stated that he was going for a more realistic feel for the film (as realistic as one can be when chronicling the exploits of a dude in a walking tank), so an older, though still as cocky and confident, Tony Stark would be more believable.

Another plus for Wopat: he’s several inches taller than RDJ. In superhero movies, bigger is always better, especially when it comes to the hero himself. A minor quibble, but a taller Iron Man is a bigger Iron Man is a better Iron Man, no doubt.

Photo credit: Chris Blakeley via / CC BY-NC-ND

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